Jackets Off at Hollinger as SEC Mulls Court Action

27 January 2004

The prospect of a glorious roughhouse for possession of Lord Conrad Black's ailing but still desirable newspaper empire is brewing nicely. With each passing day, the sequence of events moves ever closer to the plot of an improbable blockbusting novel. And for those interested in the film rights, what a cast might be assembled!

Russell Crowe, if he could be persuaded to gain several pounds in bodyweight, would bring gravitas and a hint of danger to the central role of his Lordship; while Joan Collins would convince as his feisty consort, the occasional newspaper columnist and fashion icon Barabara Amiel.

John Malkovitch would bring an edgy, obsessive quality to Black's nemesis, Christopher Browne, the managing director of Hollinger investor Tweedy Browne; and, were he still with us, Sir Alec Guinness could gain an Oscar in the dual role of reclusive entrepreneur twins Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay. The supporting part of the Securities and Exchange Commission could be played by the entire cast of Police Academy 5.

Meanwhile, back in the real world …

• US Federal investigators are probing whether Black violated a US court injunction after he rewrote the corporate bylaws of Hollinger International (H-Intl) last Friday. The investigation will decide whether this might impair the SEC investigation into the company's affairs. In which case, effective control of H-Intl's main publishing interests could pass to an independent administrator appointed by the court.

• The Barclays' $466.5 million (€370.25m; £255.20m) bid for Black's controlling stake in holding company Hollinger Incorporated (H-Inc) looks almost certain to be topped by a plethora of rival bids from the UK. Newspaper tycoon Richard Desmond is raring to up the ante, Associated Newspapers plans to bid £500m; while the Sunday Times reports that former Mirror Group chief executive David Montgomery is working with investment bank 3i on a £1.1bn blockbuster bid for H-Intl in its entirety.

Fait vos jeux!

Data sourced from multiple origins; additional content by WARC staff